Sunday, July 4, 2010

Windsor Castle - Fit for a Queen (#11)

We traveled out of London into the suburbia of Windsor. We passed the prestigious and famous uppity-up school of Eton and the kids' paradise Legoland. I couldn't say, "I want to see Legoland," because I was on a sophisticated tour of Windsor Castle.
The town of Windsor is a quaint little cobble-stoned old English town with a kilt company (every pattern) and some ye-olde eateries. A giant statue of Queen Victoria dominates the town square, and the Queen's soldiers march around it every day at the changing of the guard.
As soon as we entered the castle grounds, we met Lynn, a Windsor security employee who has actually met the Queen on several occasions. She said that the Queen comes up to country on the weekends, and at 83, she still horseback rides every day. The Queen (TQ) doesn't wear a helmet (not good), but she wears a little scarf on her head and goes for a daily ride. I don't know why it would make a difference, but I was so happy to hear what a friendly amiable person the Queen is. Lynn said the Queen chats with the staff whenever they're in her presence, and invites them to special occasions in the castle. I guess when you're the queen, you don't have many personal friends, and these 160 people with whom she works every day really have become her friends. It's kind of sweet, actually.
Windsor Castle is so mammoth, you can't possibly photograph the entire structure in one frame, unless you're high above in a helicopter. The beginnings of the castle date back to William the Conqueror in 1066. The oldest royal residence in the British Isles, Windsor has been the home to 39 monarchs. Each has made his mark on the Castle, adding a building, or refurbishing it, adding to its art collection, or reinforcing its walls.
We began our tour at the top of the Grand Staircase where heads of state usually enter. I wonder how they keep themselves from saying, "Wow," at the first sight of the shiny armor and swords and even knights on horseback. Swords, armor, kingly gifts and robes were on display in the main room. Imagine being the president of some country, visiting the Queen for the first time, walking into this welcome room to see the lavish gifts given to her great great grandfathers as tribute from kings worldwide. It is both intimidating and breathtaking.
The walls of Windsor are paneled and wall papered and topped with gilt ceilings. The walls are filled with Godzilla-sized paintings by Europe's masters. They are all incomparable, and must give the royal family the whispery-feeling that they've got to act like they live in the Louvre. The paintings are lit to perfection and usually sit in the same space where they were originally hung 400 or 500 years ago. There are kingly paintings and "family" paintings as well. I guess when TQ walks through Windsor, she looks up at her collection thinking, "There's Uncle Edward." "There's great-great grandfather."
Knighthood lives at Windsor. The Order of the Royal Garter, an order of chivalry, is of paramount importance, and a yearly banquet honors those who possess this highest designation of the land.
The soldiers in red jackets, golden buttons and bear fur hats stand on guard at different points around Windsor. They all seem to be seven feet tall and skinny. They stand in front of little boxes that give them the impression of a toy soldier, but one look at their weapon quickly dispels those thoughts.
I'll try to post some photos, because there's no way that I can really make you understand the lavish opulent vision that Windsor is. You've got to see for yourself.

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